Prospecting is both a science and an art form. While there’s quite a bit of data available to give us hints as to what behaviors, tactics, and tools can improve a sales team’s sales prospecting techniques, there’s also a heavy element of subjectivity embedded within the way that a rep approaches a dialogue with a new prospect.
Let’s dive into some tips that’ll help your entire sales organization master both the art and science of prospecting.
Know your target audience
One of the biggest mistakes many sales teams still make during their prospecting process is not researching and properly preparing for their target audience. All too often, the individuals who are the decision-makers within a company are scattered across departments.
There may be some in accounting, R&D, manufacturing and more. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 6.8 people may be involved in a buying decision. Unfortunately, each department and the individuals in them have different goals, priorities, and metrics by which they measure success.
As a result, it’s not enough to approach B2B sales with a “one size fits all” approach. You need to do the research to understand who will be involved in the decision-making process throughout the entire sales cycle and then tailor your proposal to address their individual needs and pain points.
This can mean asking your initial contact to talk about their purchasing process and if there’s anyone else who needs to weigh in on requirements or sign off on the decision — in that situation, it’s a good idea to loop in those stakeholders early to avoid becoming “single-threaded” or tied to a single contact, who likely isn’t your ideal champion.
In the event that you realize your initial contact is not the only (or even best) stakeholder, request a group meeting with their key team members to introduce yourself, better understand everyone’s needs, and help your prospect to gain buy-in. In the process, you’ll be introduced to all of the decision-makers and you’ll now be able to build relationships with those stakeholders in addition to your original contact.
Be persistent and be willing to pick up the phone…
It’s estimated that in 2007, it took an average of 3.68 cold calls to reach a prospective buyer. In contrast, it now takes 8 attempts to reach a prospect.
Unfortunately, most sales personnel only try to reach a prospect twice before giving up. That’s a quarter of the effort required to reach a potential customer. To truly drive effective sales, sales teams must be persistent.
One of the biggest challenges many individuals have in regard to cold calling is the unease they feel towards engaging in it. The reality, however, is that 92% of customer interactions happen over the phone. That means that many prospects are accustomed to, and comfortable with, being engaged over the phone.
However, many millennials are not as comfortable with the phone as a sales medium. Training, practice, and real-time coaching can help reps get acclimated and take advantage of cold calling, especially if your prospects are receptive to it.
…But don’t overwhelm your audience
Society today puts extraordinary demands on people. Phone calls, cold emails, text messages, Slack conversations, meetings and more vie for people’s attention. It’s little wonder that a study by Microsoft, showed the average person loses concentration after 8 seconds. As a result, it’s important to quickly capture a prospect’s attention with what matters most.
Unfortunately, most sales reps make the mistake of trying to overwhelm their prospects with so much information and data that they end up losing their attention and failing to make a sale.
Instead, focus on surfacing your prospect’s problem(s) to start the dialogue. Trying to actually close the deal in the first interaction is a surefire way to not overwhelm the prospect when the goal should be to make a connection and open the door to a full conversation.
This goes back to knowing your audience and adapting your approach to that understanding. If you’ve done your research and know your target audience, you can succinctly address the top one or two concerns, questions or problems your prospect is facing — without overwhelming them with unnecessary data.
Especially relevant to the shortness of today’s prospect attention span is one sales method that has proven exceptionally effective is the use of videos. Videos — especially high-quality, professionally made videos tailored to your prospect — can often engage a viewer in a way that no plain text message can. Videos can also provide specific examples demonstrating how your company’s products can help solve the prospect’s problems and address common objections.
In fact, videos have become so successful that companies using video “grow company revenue 49% faster year-over-year than organizations without video.” Videos are effective because they tap into how the human brain works far better than text.
“The brain processes visuals 60,000x faster than text.”According to the research
What’s more, the changing landscape of the American workforce and buying process is only going to drive this trend with each passing year.
“Beginning in 2016, millennials crossed a significant threshold, becoming the single biggest generation in the workforce at some 35%.”According to Richard Fry from Pew Research Center
This is a generation that didn’t grow up reading briefs and essays like previous generations. Their entire life has been dominated by smartphones, tablets, social media, YouTube videos and the like. To reach this audience, it’s imperative to engage them using the technology they’re most familiar and comfortable with.
Video, as a format, is also quite easy for reps to master. A rep can record themselves in a minute-long personal intro and send it along to the prospect without much fuss but it shows the prospect that the rep is engaged with them on a personal level, which can go a long way toward piquing the prospect’s interest in a sea of plain text email templates and LinkedIn intros.
There are a growing number of tools like (Vidyard.com, Dubb.com, and Hippovideo.io) designed to streamline this process, making it easier than before for sales reps to take advantage of the video format.
Nail the follow through
The fifth area where sales teams can significantly improve their process and sales pipeline is in the ‘follow through’ which requires relentless (but tactful!) follow up.
The vast majority of sales — some 80% — require no less than five follow-up calls, yet 44% of sales professionals give up after a single call.
Just as it takes persistence to get that initial prospect, it takes just as much persistence to convert a prospect into a customer. Sometimes that means reaching out on different channels (both online and offline!) such as sending a connection request on Linkedin, shooting the prospect a brief email as a follow-up or even sending a piece of snail mail.
Other times persistence takes the form of patience when “now isn’t a good time” or you’re asked to “reconnect at the end of the quarter.” In these situations, try setting a task or reminder in your CRM to follow up at that requested interval.
The Bottom Line
Prospecting is all about knowing your audience and using that knowledge to spark the prospect’s interest — nothing more, nothing less. By keeping a clear focus on the very first step of a successful sales process, prospecting, reps can hone their approach to kickstarting the sales conversation with prospecting methods like cold calling, video intros, and creative follow-ups.